Ethics Commission start-up has been complicated

In its first nine months of existence, the Tennessee Ethics Commission "may be making its job harder by giving the appearance of struggling with open government issues," the Associated Press says. "The commission has trained lawmakers and lobbyists on ethical standards and collected forms disclosing conflicts of interest from a range of public officials." But, the report says, the panel also has failed to grant a public records request, is considering meeting privately with attorneys to discuss how to respond to records requests and has disagreed on how much freedom its staff should be allowed in answering questions about ethics laws. Read the full story on
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Howard H. Vogel
Knoxville, Tennessee
Editor-in-Chief, TBALink


Court: TSC


Court: TCA


Richard Brown, Jr., Mountain City, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Paul G. Summers, Attorney General and Reporter, Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General, Kellena Baker, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole.


An inmate filed a petition for writ of certiorari challenging a Board of Parole decision and alleged several grounds, including lack of notice and discrimination. The trial court found the petitioner alleged no grounds upon which to disturb the board's decision, and we affirm.


Court: TCA


Marcy E. Adcock, McMinnville, Tennessee, and James B. Dance, Carthage, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dave Enoch.

Jack O. Bellar, Carthage, Tennessee, for the appellees, Smith County, Tennessee, and Smith County Highway Department.


The operator of an automobile junkyard in Smith County appeals the permanent injunction issued against him by the Chancery Court enjoining him from maintaining an excessive number of inoperable vehicles within one thousand feet of a county road in violation of the Smith County Junkyard Control Act, Chapter 97 of the Private Acts of 1987. The junkyard operator contends the evidence was insufficient to support the findings and conclusions of the trial court. Finding the evidence more than sufficient, primarily due to admissions by the operator of the junkyard, we affirm.


Court: TCCA


Phyllis Aluko, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Devin Banks.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michael Moore, Solicitor General; Clarence Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General, Stacy McEndree, Assistant District Attorney General, and Karen Cook, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: HAYES

A Shelby County jury found the Appellant, Devin Banks, guilty of the first degree premeditated murder of Kadhem Al-Maily and the Class A felonies of criminal attempt to commit first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery of Hussain Atilebawi. Following the penalty phase hearing, the jury found the presence of two statutory aggravating circumstances and imposed the sentence of death. In a separate sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Banks to twenty-five years for each of the Class A felonies and ordered them to be served consecutively to one another and to the sentence of death. Banks now seeks review by this court of both his convictions and resulting sentences, presenting the following issues for review: (1) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) whether the trial court erred in admitting a photograph of the surviving victim; (3) whether the trial court erred in admitting Banks' statements absent a ruling on the motion to suppress; (4) whether the trial court erred in admitting hearsay statements made by the victim; (5) whether the trial court failed to properly certify the Arabic translator; (6) whether the trial court failed to properly instruct the jury as to lesser included offenses; (7) whether the indictment failed to charge a capital offense; (8) whether the victim impact jury instruction was coercive; (9) whether the closing argument by the prosecutor was improper; (10) whether the sentences for the non-capital offenses are excessive; (11) whether Tennessee's death penalty statutes are constitutional; and (12) whether the death sentence in this case is disproportionate to death sentences in other cases. Following review, we affirm Banks' convictions for first degree murder, criminal attempt to commit first degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery. His sentences for the Class A felony convictions are also affirmed. We further conclude that the evidence does not support application of the (i)(6) statutory aggravating circumstance. Nonetheless, we conclude that the error is harmless, and the sentence of death is affirmed.


Court: TCCA


Gregg Eichelman, District Public Defender, and R. Russell Mattocks, Assistant District Public Defender, Morristown, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bobby Rayle.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter, Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; C. Berkeley Bell, District Attorney General; Doug Godbee and Virgil Everhart, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The petitioner, Bobby Rayle, pled guilty to one count of child rape in the Hawkins County Criminal Court. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he received a sentence of fifteen years as a Range I, standard offender to be served at one hundred percent. The petitioner timely filed a petition for postconviction relief alleging that his guilty plea was not voluntarily or knowingly made and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. After a full evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied relief. Following our review, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.


Court: TCCA


Gary F. Antican, District Public Defender, and David S. Stockton and Julie K. Pillow, Assistant District Public Defenders, for the appellant, Elbert Tate.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Mike Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Tracey Brewer, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Elbert Tate, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter (Class C felony) and sentenced as a multiple offender to ten years, consecutive to the sentence he was then serving. He appeals his conviction and asserts two issues: 1) the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction for voluntary manslaughter; and 2) the trial court erred in excluding corroborating evidence of the victim's propensity for violence. We conclude, after review, that the evidence sufficiently supported the conviction and that the exclusion of the offered testimony was error, but harmless. We affirm the conviction.


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